Eight things you should know as an international student in Toronto

Are you moving to Toronto to study? Here are eight top tips to help you settle into the city

Joy Hunter's avatar

Joy Hunter

Student content curator
December 6 2021
Downtown Toronto


The bustling multicultural city of Toronto is a popular choice among international students.

Located on the shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto offers an attractive blend of campus learning and city life.

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Canada can also provide cheaper study options than most anglophone countries, as well as simpler application processes and more opportunities for permanent residency after graduating.

If you’re planning to move to Toronto for your studies, you’ll know that lots of exciting times lie ahead.

To help you prepare, here are eight things you should know as an international student in Toronto.

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1. Extreme weather

Toronto is known for having boiling summers and freezing winters, so you need to be prepared for extreme weather. Temperatures regularly stay below zero during winter, and heavy snow and ice is normal.

Investing in a good coat, boots and thermals is a must – but you might want to wait and pick up these essential items after you arrive. Toronto has lots of vintage and second-hand shops where you’ll find high-quality warm clothing at a reasonable price.

2. Land acknowledgements and Indigenous culture

You may find that your university has a statement on its website known as a land acknowledgement. Land acknowledgements are a common protocol in Canada, where institutions express their gratitude to Canada’s Indigenous peoples, who have lived and worked on the land both historically and presently.

Louise Evans, a recent University of Glasgow graduate who did a year abroad at the University of Toronto, advises international students to spend some time learning about Canada’s Indigenous culture and history to gain a broader understanding.

3. Ice hockey is as big as everyone says it is

Canada’s reputation for ice hockey is well known and well deserved. Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame is the place to learn about all the legends in the sport, or you could go along to a game yourself and see what it’s all about.

“I’d suggest going to see university teams play ice hockey,” says Louise. “It’s a great atmosphere ,and the tickets will be a lot cheaper than professional games.”

4. Why Toronto is called “the six”

Locals and fans of the rapper and Toronto native Drake will know that “the six” is a slang term for the city. Confused? Toronto as we know it today was originally six separate municipalities: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, York and the former city of Toronto. Since their amalgamation in 1998, the city’s nickname has reflected this.

5. Travelling around Canada

Canada has so much to offer beyond the city of Toronto, and it’s well worth travelling around while you have the opportunity. Muskoka Lake is not far from the city if you need a getaway with stunning views, and many students will travel and camp around Canada together during the summers.

6. Toronto has an amazing food scene

As a highly diverse city, you’ll find fantastic food from all over the world in Toronto. Canadian classics such as poutine – a delicious dish made with chips, gravy and melted cheese curds – are a must, but the cultural districts of Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Italy are also well worth exploring for culinary escapades.

Leaving a tip when you go out to eat is standard practice in Toronto, so keep this in mind when budgeting to eat out.

7. There are three main ways to get around the city

Toronto is a large, sprawling city that takes some time to learn how to get around. Locals often complain about public transport services across the city, but there are a lot of options to help you get around. Streetcars, subways and buses are your three main options.

Public transport is relatively cheap in the city, and usually accessed using Presto, an electronic payment card system enabling students to move around the city and top up funds using their mobile phones.

8. There is an underground world known as “The Path”

If someone mentions “The Path” in Toronto, they don’t mean the pavement or sidewalk. The Path is a warren of underground streets connecting the city’s major subway stations and lined with cafes and shops. It’s particularly useful during the freezing winters as it means less time out in the cold.

That said, The Path can be famously hard to navigate for newcomers, so it’s worth taking some time to get to know it before you need to rush through it on your way somewhere.

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